Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Do I Get My Kids to Eat Real Food?

A big problem for those that are transitioning to the real foods is getting their children to go along with it. It's hard enough to give up your Coke, but taking the goldfish crackers away from your two-year-old? Especially if that is one of three food groups he will eat. (Not that I would ever give goldfish crackers to my child or that one of my children would be that picky. Ahem.)

The simple thing would be to hook up an IV at birth giving them straight whole fruits and vegetables. Hmmm....that's probably the idea behind eating so healthfully in pregnancy. I don't know about you, but in the early weeks of pregnancy, lettuce and broccoli just didn't do anything for me except trigger a gag reflex.  (Not that I would ever live on white English muffins, saltines, ginger ale and fruit snacks in early pregnancy. That would just be horrible nutrition!)  

Since IVs at birth are not plausible and moaning about what one ate during pregnancy is not helpful when you have children seated around the table, what is a parent to do?

Richard (12m) eating an apple1. Skip the baby food. Haven't we all looked at that little jar of pureed green beans and thought, "Yech!" And can anyone tell me why the jarred bananas are pink?!

One of my children had a total of 3 - 5 jars of baby food in his whole life. He grew just fine. In fact, people loved to pinch his cheeks, he was such a "filled-out" little baby.

It's cheaper to buy a bunch of bananas, leave them sit on the counter for a few days, then mash them with a fork. Or buy a big jar of natural applesauce that actually stays on the spoon long enough for you to get it to the baby's mouth. Use your blender and you can puree the real green beans yourself. I think (in my obviously non-expert opinion) this goes a long way towards developing a baby's taste for real foods later on.

2. Give it to 'em straight. I'll never forget the first time my oldest son had a broccoli casserole he promptly spit it out with the exclamation, "Mom! There's something in my broccoli!" I haven't made another one since. We just eat it "straight" with some sea salt and occasionally some real cheese.

Vending Machine Lunch3. Don't bring junk into the house. I think it was Kevin Leman, child psychologist, who had a mother come to him moaning that her child would eat nothing but junk food. He asked her how the boy was making the money to buy it and  from what store he purchased it. She had to sheepishly admit that she bought it and brought it home herself.

The answer is obvious. If it's not there, they won't eat it. Probably the "junk" they get elsewhere won't be enough to do damage if they aren't getting it at home. (At least that's what I'm hoping! Not that I ever allow my children to eat chicken nuggets and french fries on road trips! I mean that would just be ridiculous with my writing a blog post like this!)

4. Don't make food a big deal. The truth is that at some point, if your child thinks carrots or broccoli is a big deal to you, he will simply refuse to eat it. Kids are smart like that. They know how to do power plays. (Not that I would have any experience with a child like that. Of course not!)

Offer the real food and limit the junk food, but don't overreact if your child refuses the good and leans toward the "bad". The simple truth is, when they are hungry, they will eat. If there is something real to eat, they will eat the real food. Sooner or later.

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